Hollywood Glamor lighting with video lights

creating Hollywood Glamor lighting with video lights

The old Hollywood masters such as George Hurrell, CS Bull and Laszlo Willinger had a dramatic way of lighting their portraits, with specific use of light and shade.

For my review of the Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Lights, I had Ulorin Vex as model. Her style and clothing are quite unique, and dramatic enough that these lights enhanced her look. I loved what we came up with.

In using these Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Lights (vendor) to specifically emulate Hollywood Glamor lighting, I called in another model, Elle Olins. Elle has that smoldering look to her that turned out to be perfect for this style of lighting.

This pull-back shot shows how the two Sola 4 units were set up. The light to camera left, was there to create that oval streak on the background. The Sola 4 in the foreground (camera right), was there to create the dramatic light pattern on Elle’s face.

With the barndoors on that light, I was able to minimize the light falling on her forehead, and accentuate her eyes. I also specifically lifted the bottom flap of the barndoors to create a distinct light fall-off over her lips. I really wanted Elle’s eyes to draw the viewer in. As you can see from this photo of that Sola 4 unit, I had just this narrow slit of light sneaking through.

The pull-back shot also shows, interestingly perhaps, the clutter of the studio. Shooting tight, the 4′ wide backdrop was more than enough for this kind of portrait.

You may well ask why I used this narrower backdrop here instead of the 9′ wide paper backdrops that are in my studio. Well, there was just too much available light streaming in, and we couldn’t get the kind of contrasty photos we wanted. So I turned this smaller backdrop around so that it would block the majority of light. The available light ended up giving some rim-light on Elle, as can be seen in this comparison photo.

The fortunate thing with the Litepanels Sola 4 being daylight balanced LED lights, is that the available light that snuck in, didn’t give a strange color balance.


The WYSWIG aspect of these video lights (and other continuous light sources), is that you can adjust the position of the lights (and your model’s pose), to a fine degree. You can closely observe exactly how the light falls across your model’s features. Then it’s a matter of adjusting the light levels (and focus of the light beams), and the position of your model to get the exact light you wanted.


books on Hollywood Glamor lighting

I strongly recommend this book where the authors analyze and break down some of the best known portraits and describe how the images where lit – Hollywood Portraits, by Roger Hicks and Christopher Nisperos

It is available on Amazon, along with other titles on the topic:


equipment (and equivalents) used for this photo session


related articles


Litepanels Sola light kits

8 Comments, Add Your Own

    • 1.1 says

      Do you know that Harcourt is now organizing trainings in its mythic studio? I participate to the latest session two weeks ago, and it was a great experience!

  1. 2 says

    Lovely portrait, Neil. Wondering about the fresnel lights… The cost for each light is a bit jaw-dropping. I’m wondering how difficult these would be with strobes. Outside of barn doors controlling the light, is there a quality to the fresnel that you can’t otherwise get? My understanding is that fresnel lights tend to be a fairly hard light.

  2. 3Adrian says

    Love it: just a shame the lights are so expensive. Hollywood Portraits by Lou Szouke is also excellent for tips on this style of lighting

  3. 5 says

    What you lose with flash is the ability to see exactly how the light falls on your subject’s face.

    With this portrait of Elle, the smallest adjustment to her chin, or how her head leaned over, would affect the light. I’m talking here about a fraction of an inch.

    So with flash this would take multiple tries. With continuous light, you see exactly what you’re getting right then as you trip the shutter. Or .. you can talk to your subject and finesse the way they position themselves, and then take the shot.

    It’s a different (and easier) way of working when your light is a harder / smaller light source.

  4. 6 says

    Absolutely glorious images…Hurrell is one of my all time fav portrait photographers with this sort of lighting.

    Fabulous job Neil.

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